In 1985, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and John Mellencamp joined forces and organized the first Farm Aid Concert. These iconic artists were on a mission to draw attention to the increasing loss of family farms and to raise funds to keep farmers on their land. Similar to SAHC’s Farmland Program, Farm Aid’s mission is to keep America’s farmers farming. 28 years after the first Farm Aid concert SAHC sent two representatives of our Farmland Program (Caitlin Edenfield and Yael Girard) to the event to promote the new ‘Farmer Incubator Program’ on Our Community Farm.
In addition to spreading the word about our farmland preservation efforts, they visited a cutting edge restaurant owned by one of our agricultural conservation easement landowners. Here is Caitlin’s account of the trip:
“Arriving in Raleigh on Friday, the day before the event, we maneuvered our way through the Walnut Creek Amphitheater to the Farm Aid 2014 HOMEGROWN Village. We met up with partners and other local land trusts, Conservation Trust for North Carolina, Piedmont Land Conservancy, and Triangle Land Conservancy to begin setting up our booth. Within the HOMEGROWN Village there were organizations against factory farms, farmer assistance resources, and local food organizations. The HOMEGROWN Village was already teeming with people, and this was just the day before!
After getting everything set up we ventured out to downtown Raleigh. We found quickly that food has a very clear way of connecting people and organizations. We met with Will Jeffers who owns Watalula Farm in Leicester, NC. SAHC holds a conservation easement on a portion of Watalula Farm and is in the process of completing a conservation easement on the remainder of the farm. In addition to farming in WNC, Will’s primary occupation is part owner of Stanbury, an eclectic restaurant in a quiet neighborhood on the edge of downtown Raleigh. Will, his brother Joseph (part owner and bartender at Stanbury), and Yael are all Warren Wilson College alumni. We met up with the Jeffers brothers as the dinner crowd was wrapping up, and they gave us the royal treatment. The Stanbury menu features local meats and produce with a wide variety of dishes – including roasted marrow and boiled peanuts.
Saturday we woke up ready to tout the SAHC Community Farm. By noon on Saturday the HOMEGROWN Village was lively, and Yael and I began connecting with folks from all over the state and even the country, spreading information about SAHC’s Farmland Access program. The crowd of people was so diverse, from old time farmers to students looking to become part of the local food movement. Yael was interviewed by a video blogger writes for the website Eye on North Carolina. The music played on with acts such as Delta Rae, Carlene Carter, and Preservation Hall Jazz Band performing throughout the afternoon. Many people signed up to receive information about the Farmer Incubator Program as well as information about outings and hikes at SAHC.
Later in the day, the HOMEGROWN Village began winding down as the big name acts were ramping up. Jack White started things off, followed by Dave Matthews Band. John Mellencamp and Neil Young continued with great tunes and reiterated the main message of the day – family farms are important, worth saving, and in need of our support; local food is not just a trend, but needs to be a conscious effort; farmland needs to be protected and maintained as productive land. Willie Nelson and Family finished the night off with classic tunes and inspiring words that sent the crowd off with a sense of the current conditions of our country’s farm system, hope for the future of farming, and ambition to make change in their own communities.”